Summer is finally here, and we’re hoping that we can, at least for a few days, take a breath (at least, as much of a breath as possible with wildfires blanketing Canada and the US with smoke), step out into the sunshine (hopefully, not too much, what with climate change and all), and enjoy a nice, restful vacation (assuming you’re not attacked by a drug-crazed bear).
Sorry. It’s been that kind of year.
In fact, because the year has been so… interesting, we asked the staff of The Verge to talk about what type of gear they plan to use to slow down and enjoy their summer. Hopefully, you’ll be able to put aside some time to relax and take a break as well.
Hats and packs
A super sun hat
Doing yard work in the summer sun can be brutal, and when you’re looking for sun protection, your typical baseball cap might not cut it. That’s why it’s always nice to have a sun hat on hand, which offers a bit of shade around your face and neck — but it’s still not exactly ideal if you have long hair.
Wearing a standard sun hat leaves my sweaty ponytail plastered to my neck, and as you can imagine, that’s not exactly pleasant. After months of suffering, I decided to do the smart thing and buy a sunhat with a cutout for my ponytail. This particular sun hat, which comes from a company called Pogah that I’ve never heard of before, is far cheaper than the Columbia-branded sun hat I’ve been sporting. It also comes in a variety of color options and has an adjustable chin strap, but most importantly, it features a ponytail hole that I now use to keep my hair up and away from my neck while spending time in the sun.
Wide brim foldable hat with an opening for a ponytail.
For the birds
Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
Like Emma, I need hats to protect my eyes and my head from the sun; in my case, it is in order to allow me to comfortably bird-watch. But my hat doesn’t only have to provide sun protection; it has to keep off insects, cobwebs, and the occasional dropping from a bird who resents being watched. It needs to be washable so that I can rid it of the aforementioned cobwebs and droppings. Finally, I need to be able to stuff it into a backpack or a bag when I no longer need it.
There are a lot of useful head coverings that can fulfill that need, but the one that my partner bought me especially for my birding trips is the Tilley Hat, a cloth hat that will, according to its label, be replaced free if it ever wears out. It has several grommets on the side for airflow, a cord that can be tucked away in the hat or fastened under my chin, a hidden pocket inside the crown for an ID or whatever I need to always carry with me — and it does a fine job of protecting my eyes, head, and neck during a long birding walk. The one that I own has not been available for a while; the T5 Cotton Duck Hat is the closest to it I could find on the company’s website. And yes, it’s not cheap — but how many hats do you know with secret pockets and lifetime guarantees?
This handmade Tilley hat, made of durable, breathable cotton duck fabric with a water repellent finish, will protect you from the sun and careless birds.
Best pack for biking
We have very cold winters where I live, so I try to bike as many places as possible when the weather allows. The Baggu fanny pack has been a great summer addition. I wear it on my waist when biking, but I have the matte black, and it also looks fine as a simple cross-body bag. My folding bike lock and my wallet neatly fit in the larger pocket, and my phone goes in the smaller outside pocket. I haven’t had to launder it yet, but it is washable when the time comes.
This versatile fanny pack can be worn around the waist or over the shoulders.
Yes, you need sunscreen
Jess Weatherbed, news writer
In the now-famous words of Baz Luhrmann: wear sunscreen. I’m something of an expert on the subject myself. Not in terms of actual academia or qualifications, sadly — however, I am tragically very, very ginger. This means I’ve spent all 29 years of my life attempting to prevent my skin from burning to a shade that matches my hair. I’m also afflicted with ADHD because the universe knew I’d be too powerful if it let me have melanin and any kind of memory retention, so the whole “remember to reapply your SPF at least every two hours” thing is far easier said than done.
Luckily, I found an idiot-proof solution. SpotMyUV makes UV-reactive skin-safe stickers that you apply to yourself before slathering on the sunscreen. When coated with SPF, these small, dot-shaped stickers turn translucent and then revert back to their original purple color when exposed to UV light — indicating that your sunscreen has worn off and it’s time to reapply.
I place a single sticker where I’m most likely to spot any changes (such as my lower arm), and that will last me all day, even while swimming! Which is important because I’m lucky enough to live in one of the few seaside resort towns in the UK that does actually get rather warm. I don’t experience the extreme heat of some of my US colleagues, but considering I can get sunburnt during the soggy British summer, I’ll take all the reminders I can to stay protected.
Stickers that fade into your skin until your UV protection stops working.
Victoria Song, senior reviewer
I’m a firm believer in wearing SPF 50/PA++++ sunscreen every day, but it’s especially important in the summer. I’m not out here trying to get sunburned, I have zero interest in skin cancer, and nothing ages you faster than time in the sun with no sun protection. While I have special water-resistant sunscreens for sports and a whole roster of daily sunscreens, I always stash the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Airy Sun Stick in my bag when I go out during the summer.
The annoying thing about sunscreen is you’ve got to reapply it every 90-120 minutes, depending on what you’re doing and how much sun exposure you get. I don’t always remember to bring a bottle with me, especially if I’m just going to a picnic or an outdoor concert, which is why this stick sunscreen is so handy. It’s super lightweight, doesn’t feel greasy, and the teardrop shape makes applying under your eye really easy. I don’t have any problems reapplying over makeup, and it doesn’t sting my eyes if I’m really sweaty. It’s a little pricey, but I usually buy in bulk when there’s a sale and stick one in every bag I have.
Handy sunscreen stick for all-day use.
Let’s play bat the bug
Antonio Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
The summer season is peak bug season, and my favorite method of ridding my home of the occasional flying nuisance is a big, dumb, glorified electric tennis racket. There are lots of electric fly swatters out there, but this one — hilariously named “The Executioner” — seemed to have just the right amount of insect animus to convince me to buy it nearly nine years ago. It’s served me well over that time, as I’ve used it to rid my space of many mosquitos, house flies, moths, and more. There’s something sadistically satisfying about gently waving this thing around in the air and hearing that loud “ZAP!” sound as you rid yourself of a winged pest that would happily feast upon your blood if given the chance.
Just be careful where you swing this thing, as unlike other electric fly swatters, The Executioner has no plastic guards to prevent friendly fire / ill-advised drunken dares. But, to be fair, I think that’s key to why it works so well — and hey, those arm hairs will just grow back anyway.
An electronic bug zapper that will get the pests every time.
Christopher Grant, group publisher, The Verge and Polygon
If you don’t have Spotted Lanternflies in your area, just wait; they’re coming. The insect, native to China and first detected in my home state of Pennsylvania in 2014, is an invasive species that loves to snack on trees, along with other plants and crops. As a result, local governments have been asking people to squish them on sight. There’s something charming about seeing a group of children chasing down Lanternflies and gleefully stomping them — just doing their part.
However, stomping on them is easier said than done since the bugs can bounce (usually right toward your face), and it’s hard to stomp a tree branch above your head, their preferred hang-out zone. So we found the BugZooka WB100, which is a pump-actuated vacuum for sucking up critters, and it’s proven a hit in our household. No batteries are required, just a steady hand, and you can fill the reservoir with enough bugs to make you feel like a horticultural hero.
This handy item will vacuum up all those nasty insects.
Keep the water flowing
William Poor, lead producer, development
Summers are glorious in Seattle, but the much-needed break from rain does mean that I need to water my garden regularly. For years, I’ve tried to make do with hand-me-down garden hoses, but they drove me nuts. Old hoses can be bulky, stiff, and impossible to stow neatly; they’re a pain to haul through the yard, and it’s far too easy to accidentally wipe out a flower bed as you yank them around. So this season, I broke down and bought a new expandable hose. It’s magnificent. When it’s drained, all 75 feet of it shrinks down into a tidy little pile, and even when fully expanded, it’s so much more flexible than a standard hose — no kinks, no stiffness. The common knock against expandable hoses is that they have a shorter lifespan, so I found this one that has a lifetime warranty. There are definitely cheaper standard hoses out there, but if you have a smaller yard with a lot of nooks and crannies that need attention, an expandable hose is definitely worth considering.
A garden hose that quickly expands and contracts for easy use and easy storage.
Fun in the sun
Listening to music
Brandon Widder, senior commerce editor
For the longest time, my go-to portable speaker for camping and backpacking was the Ultimate Ears Roll 2. It was small and efficient, but it didn’t mesh well with the rest of my audio setup, especially on those sweltering summer days when I barely made it beyond the confines of my own backyard.
A couple of years ago, however, I splurged on the Sonos Roam. The rugged, pint-sized device is on the pricier side when compared to other Bluetooth speakers, but it produces solid sound for the size, offers wireless charging, and can automatically jump between my home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth, a convenience I’ve come to appreciate when strapping the speaker to my bike and heading out the door.
And while I might not be able to fire off my usual quips at Alexa when I take it into the backcountry — the Roam only supports voice commands when connected to Wi-Fi — I certainly can still do it poolside with a drink in hand.
The Sonos Roam is a truly portable Sonos speaker with a rugged design that’s built to withstand the elements. It also features wireless charging and supports AirPlay 2, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Nathan Edwards, senior reviews editor
Summer is for swimming, sipping ice-cold drinks, and throwing things. And the best thing to throw in the summer, aside from a party or a Frisbee, is Mölkky.
Mölkky is a lawn game. Actually, it’s the best lawn game. A Mölkky set consists of 12 wooden pins (or “skittles,” I guess) with numbers on them, plus an additional hunk of wood you throw at the others. If you knock over one pin, you get points corresponding to the number on the pin. If you knock over more than one, you get one point per pin. If you miss entirely three times in a row, you’re out. Your goal is to be the first to hit 50 points without going over.
It’s simple enough to explain in a couple sentences and just complicated enough to require a bit of strategy. It’s less hazardous than horseshoes or lawn darts (RIP), more portable than cornhole, and less finicky about terrain than bocce or pétanque. It also scales better. You can play it with two people, or you can play it with two dozen, as long as nobody’s in a hurry. And why would you be? It’s perfect for apéro, which is French for the leisurely period between 5PM and dinner where you’re just hanging out with a drink and a snack and playing Mölkky. It’s great for picnics, too, in any language.
This outdoor game of setting up pins and knocking them down is great for lawn parties and other summer get-togethers.
Brandon Widder, senior commerce editor
I’m a big fan of ambient lighting, even when I’m 50 miles from the nearest outlet. And while I’ve long been a proponent of MPOWERD’s solar-powered Luci lanterns, I recently picked up the company’s like-minded string lights for car camping and overnight jaunts in the backcountry when I don’t mind toting a little extra weight with me. The 18-foot string is certainly not the brightest you can buy — it packs a series of 100-lumen LEDs, whereas your average headlamp might offer 400 — but it can swap between six different colors and features a 2,000mAh battery for when your phone needs some emergency juice. Best of all, you can charge the lights via USB or solar, meaning you can spend less time worrying about how to keep them going and more time taking in the vibes.
If you want to add color to your campsite, this 18-foot cord contains 20 LEDs that transmit six colors: violet, turquoise, green, blue, pink, and white.